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What is it with Mitt Romney and costumes?

Joe Conason reported three weeks ago that Romney used to don a Michigan State Trooper’s uniform and pull over unsuspecting motorists when he was a young man; today, The Daily Caller has reported two similar incidents that transform Romney’s odd prank into an odd pattern.

According to The Daily Caller report, a teenaged Mitt Romney dressed in what a witness called “gangland fashion,” and pretended to rob the Princeton Prep Shoppe in Birmingham, Michigan.

The four teens wore “trench coats with turned-up collars and wide-brimmed fedoras,” [store owner Ben Shaw] told The Daily Caller in an interview.

The pretend gangsters made a beeline for the storefront. One knocked the door open while two others “stood menacingly with their hands in their pockets.” Shaw instantly pegged the fourth member of the team as Romney. The boy “shoved his way in,” he said, wielding a toy Tommy gun.

“This is a stick-up,” Shaw recalls Romney saying, adding that he “proceeded to ‘spray’ the entire store as sparks from the toy flew from the muzzle.”

In the blink of an eye, the pranksters jumped into their getaway car and sped away.

Shaw also recalled another prank, in which Romney appeared at his store late at night — dressed “in full Bloomfield Township fireman’s regalia.”

“He had on the waterproof cape, the fire helmet, and he was carrying a bona fide fire ax,” Shaw told TheDC, and barged into the store screaming, “Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire?”

The costumed Romney paraded through the store — all the while yelling about a nonexistent fire while swinging the ax over his head — and walked out the unlocked front door. And as quickly as he had barged in, he vanished.

Romney claimed that he got his Michigan State Trooper’s uniform from his father; while The Daily Caller story gives no indication of how he received the fireman’s uniform, it seems likely that the Governor of Michigan provided it for him as well.

When asked to comment by The Daily Caller, a Romney campaign spokesperson did not dispute the stories — but claimed that Romney was not armed with a toy Tommy gun in the first incident, and that he carried a fire hose instead of an axe in the second.

Shaw claims that one of his employees responded to the stick-up by labeling Mitt as “a crazy goofball.” Given Romney’s pattern of playing dress-up and his well-documented “prank” on a gay classmate at the Cranbrook School, however, his former Stanford classmate Robin Madden’s reaction of “Wow, that’s pretty creepy” seems more appropriate.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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